Friday, October 20, 2006

I'm Not Going Like Elsie

I went to a cabaret show with my friend, Ken Bloom, last night. I haven't been in a cabaret room in years. It's important that I make this clear; YEARS. I have been invited to see friends in cabarets but I do not go. Oh. Hell. I made a mistake. I was in a cabaret room this summer. I saw one of the best shows I have ever seen--ever, ever, ever. It was called I'LL TAKE YOU DREAMING and it was a tribute show to Danny Kaye and the writer, creator and star of the show was Jake Speck who, I will go on public record as saying, is the most talented man I have ever met in my life. I have maintained that Pat Dwyer is my favourite actor (even though he has not been onstage in years) but Pat agrees with me that Jake is the most talented man we have ever known. He can act, sing, dance, do impressions--I believe there is nothing the man cannot do. So I was mistaken; I HAVE been in a cabaret room--and the only reason I went is because Jake is like a son to me; always has been. I would never have missed that show. I miss, no, I skip many shows. I HATE cabaret shows. It is a hatred that has been well nurtured over the years I have lived in New York.

When first I came here, I had seen only a little cabaret. In Dallas there be no such thing. People have tried it; it didn't work. Julie Wilson came through town and played the West End Cabaret. That's where we saw her for the first time. We also saw Jim Bailey as Judy Garland. They were both wonderful but that's it for my exposure to the cabaret world. The West End Cabaret closed. There are cabarets all over New York that have closed. Apparently, not only is life not a cabaret but cabaret is not alive. It is a dying....dying....dying....dead art form. There are hangers on around the country--PTown has a cabaret. There's one cabaret in the Catskills called Bradstan that is run by a very nice couple (I met them once), in the hotel that they have. There are one or two rooms in Los Angeles--hell, there are one or two rooms everywhere. And that is where the cabaret artists go to perform and to make their living. And it must be said: It CAN'T be much of a living!! I have watched as cabaret room after cabaret room have closed down in New York City. I have listened to the unhappy bemoanings of friends that perform in cabaret, telling me that there is no work, there are no rooms in which they can get bookings. I have read online heated debates about the validity of the cabaret artform and of the validity of the MAC Awards (Manhattan Association of Cabaret). I have stood on the sidelines for 12 years and watched the art of cabaret die. Ok. Not die.

But it IS on life support!!

I have had an association with the cabaret community. My work with the late, great Nancy LaMott gave me a connection to the New York cabaret community, when it was a thriving community, some twelve years ago. I did photos of LaMottski, the amazing (and, I might add, sorely missed) David Campbell, the force of nature known as Baby Jane Dexter, the legendary Karen Mason, the ingenius James Beaman (for his shows as Dietrich, Bacall AND James Beaman -- alongside Goldie Dver), the lovely Sally Mayes, the human trumpet Alix Korey and the delightful Steven Brinberg. I did photos for the likes of Jeff Harnar, Joyce Breach, Raven Snook, Marilyn Volpe, Courtney Knowles & Kim Cea, David Gurland, Barbara Anderson, William Kinsolving, Jennifer Pace, Susanna Bowling, Sammy Goldstein, Barbara Brussel, Valerie DiLorenzo, Anthony Santelmo Jr., Anne Roberts, Sigrid Sunstedt, Elizabeth Hodes and even two of my favourite songwriters in their own cabaret shows, John Bucchino and Carol Hall. I even did photos for Paul J. Williams-a standup comic (and that is a rare talent for the cabaret world). I have photographed these artists for postcards, cds, publicity releases; in the studio, in performance, on location and in the recording booths. I did photos (for THE SWEATER BOOK) of many artist from the cabaret world, including Ann Hampton Callaway, Mary Cleere Haran, Amanda McBroom, KT Sullivan, Andrea Marcovicci and Hildegarde! I even have a photo I did of Julie Wilson, in performance. I love cabaret. I love cabaret artists. I respect and admire them and I champion their work and wish there was more work for them.

But I hate cabaret shows.

Well, you may ask why... Why do I hate cabaret shows? Here it is:

I hate leaving my house at 9:30 pm to go out. I want to be in bed and asleep by 11:00pm.

I do not mind paying a cover charge--artists have to pay their bills and they deserve to be paid for their artistry. I never mind that. I hate being forced to pay twenty bucks minimum when I do not eat after eight pm and I do not drink anything but water. I don't drink soda, juice or alcohol. TWENTY DOLLARS for a bottle of water. Highway robbery.

I hate that it is more important for the G-D club to make money on the drinks than it is to enjoy the cabaret show. I want to HEAR Maria Friedman (oy. I went to that show last year, too. AMAZING) sing FINISHING THE HAT; I DON'T want to hear the waiters talking at the bar or the clinking of glasses as they attempt to navigate a maze in a room that has been packed to the point of being a FIRE HAZZARD. I want to SEE Karen Mason, not the sea of heads that are crammed in SO TIGHT in front of me that they become umbrellas on a rainy day. I want to sit, comortably, in a chair and watch a club act--but the clubs pack SO MANY people into the room that one must be a contortionist to fit into any space in the room. After last night's experience, I need a chiropractor!! I HATE PEOPLE TALKING DURING THE SHOW. People seem to think that just because the person on stage (seemingly) talks to them, they get to talk back--or worse, SING ALONG.

I hate -- no.... I think it is RUDE for a room to tell you that a show starts at ten thirty and then not start it until eleven pm. I think it is RUDE for a performer to do an act that is over fifty minutes long. We aren't talking about a Broadway show here; you can't just willy nilly get up and go to the bathroom when the drinks you are forced to order kick in. Getting to the bathroom is the equivalent of getting to a lifeboat admidst the debris after the sinking of TITANIC.

I hate the throng of people, after the show, who clutter up the aisles and exits so that they can schmooze and try to lay down the groundwork for their next appearance; I do. I hate the self-promoting and the self-agrandizing side of the artform. I'm sorry if that seems harsh, I'm sorry that they have to do it and I understand--a girl's gotta eat. But it's AWFUL. Loudmouth people standing around schmoozing while a man who has been crammed into a 2x2 space for almost two hours of a cabaret show tries to get to the bathroom to pee--it's not ok!!

I hate, hate, hate, the part of every cabaret show where the performer goes down a laundry list of names of the people who are in the audience that they think are important and should thank, publically, because it is good business. Write a note.

Here it is: perfect world. You go. You pay. Maybe the cover is a little higher so that the performers and the club can make their nut. Someone wonderful like Peggy Lee comes out and sings--and the audience SHUTS UP and listens and claps. The performer says a few things now and then but keeps the vebal diarhea to a minimum. When the performer talks, it is sincere and none of that phony unclever cabaret patter. Ech. The show clocks in at fifty, maybe sixty minutes and the audience member goes home and says "that Johnny Rodgers sure knows how to put on a show. I'm going to go online and buy his cds" and that audience member becomes a fan for life.

I love the image of clublife that you see in the movies of yesteryear, even in the movies made about yesteryear. I fantasize about seeing Carmen McRae, Nancy Wilson, Billie Holiday, Bobby Short. They knew how to do it, how to be smooth and professional and just plain great. Mel Freakin Torme. Oh, I know there are people out there who can still execute cabaret as it was back then, at its very greatest artform. I have seen them. In the ten plus years I have been here, in New York, I have loved the shows of Nancy LaMott, David Campbell, Karen Mason, Baby Jane Dexter, James Beaman, Carol Hall, Julie Johnson, Pamela Myers. Curtis Stigers was ASTOUNDING at the Algonquin. Helen Reddy and Cybill Shepherd put on WONDERFUL shows at Rainbow and Stars. I will never recover from Maria Friedman's show at the Carlyle. I am partial to Paul J. Williams' and Tommy Foster's shows but I am also a good judge and they were great. GREAT. Without bias--great. I know I have missed some shows that I should have seen. I never saw the great Shirley Horn or Elaine Stritch. In order to catch their acts, your last name must be Trump or Kennedy or Gates. Too expensive. I'll suffer in silence and I'll live. I will, always, champion these artists because their work behind a microphone is ESSENTIAL. Singers are ESSENTIAL. We need their music, and badly. They are truly special people in the art world and they deserve a chance to work. And I deserve (as does everyone) a chance to see them work.

But SOMEONE in club management and SOMEONE directing these shows needs to pick up the ball and make the experience of going to the cabaret an easier life experience. We WANT to come to the cabaret..

It's just too doggone much work.

please note that I did the photos of Nancy LaMott, David Campbell and Karen Mason but not the photos of Jake Speck.


Blogger jungle dream pagoda said...

Interesting post doll... i remember that you thought I should come to NY and do cabaret.In theory it sounds too too wonderful an art form to behold,but Jesus does sound like a bit of work . My darling William Blake performs here in a setting that sounds far more comfy than what you have described(Sambucca),and yet the start hour is always a detterent to my attendance.How sad its not given the reverance it deserves.

8:50 PM  

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